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Innovative Services Lower Costs in Public Sector Organizations

Public sector and government organizations are under great pressure to cut costs yet provide an increasing number of services to ever more constituents. Forward-looking organizations are showing it’s possible to achieve both: cut costs and improve constituent services, by deploying innovative solutions based on optimized document and information processes.

Two Public Sector Success Stories

I’m a big fan of using kiosks as a vehicle for providing information to, and collecting information from people. You can see kiosks used more and more in commercial organizations (I described a banking scenario in a recent Perspective) — but I’m increasingly finding them in the public sector as well.

I can think of two recent cases of innovative services (one in Europe, the other in the US) involving kiosks and the re-engineering of paper-intensive processes. Both helped to reduce costs and improve constituent services.

Here in Europe, a public, regional rail operator supports around 80 million passenger journeys each year across a network of metro, commuter and tourist rail lines. The application for new travel cards made in person at customer service desks, involving the capture of information and additional documentation, took time to process, causing queues to form and delaying the service for other customers. The process was particularly burdensome for elderly pensioners applying for concessionary travel cards.

To improve the efficiency of issuing new travel cards for pensioners, more than 80,000 travel card applications a year, the company automated document processing, extended access and made their application process easier through a specifically designed kiosk. The kiosk provides for the capture of document information electronically, and is designed to help pensioners step through the application process. Following validation, travel cards are printed with RFID identification tags and mailed directly to the pensioners’ home.

The average time taken for pensioners to complete and submit an application was reduced from more than an hour to just 20 minutes. It also improved customer satisfaction across the board, not just for pensioners, by reducing the waiting time for other customers by more than 50%.1

Here’s another example I came across earlier this year in a case study done by Dell2 describing innovation in telepresence at a County Recorder’s Office. This agency is responsible for serving 3.8 million people covering several large metropolitan areas; a territory so large that it was a real challenge to officially record documents, for example, documents related to the sale or purchase of real-estate, in a timely and cost-effective fashion. To record a real-estate transaction could require an hour to drive from one edge of the county to the Recorder’s Office. And funds cannot be released until documents are recorded; literally millions of dollars are at stake daily.

The Recorder’s Office fielded an innovative solution distributed in local libraries that included kiosks with a document scanner, webcam, credit card reader and network connection to the central office. A person can sit down and be in direct, personal communication with the Recorder’s Office staff miles away, and execute same-day document recording in a matter of minutes.

The benefit to the constituent is to be able to have a real estate transaction recorded faster and easier, thereby releasing their funds faster. On the cost-savings side, fielding these kiosks was estimated to be 10% the cost of opening a remote office.

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Highlights from the Full Paper:

  • Optimizing constituent-facing information processes would reduce operating costs by 9.1%
  • Despite recognizing the problem, governments are hesitant to make improvements because they believe the infrastructure is too complex to fix
  • Given the scale of processes common to governments and public sector companies & organizations, optimization has the potential to yield significant benefits; paper-based information processing is inefficient and costly
  • The European Commission predicts that adopting e-invoicing in public procurement alone could save the European Union €2.3 billion
  • Be innovative: do not hesitate to make changes across department and agency borders in order to cut costs and improve economic efficiency 

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1 Case Study: Business Process Outsourcing Improves Delivery of Public Service," Ricoh Europe, 2012.
2 "Case Study: Giving Citizens the Power to Do More," Dell Inc., March 2013

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